Start or Sit - Playoffs Edition

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Congratulations to those of you who survived the first round of the playoffs and also to those of you who just qualified.

Here we're going to try and help you decide who to start this weekend and who you should avoid at all costs.

Like I tell you every week, you probably won't find your stud players on this list. Guys like Adrian Peterson, Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald should always be started, regardless of who they're playing so it's a waste of time to even mention them.

Send your questions to:

and between Ricky and myself, we'll do the best we can to help you out.

Or, leave a comment. We'll answer EVERY one of your questions.

Otherwise, good luck this weekend.

Must starts: Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning


Jay Cutler - Broncos vs. Panthers - Cutler has been starting to pick up the pace in recent weeks and now will face the tough Panthers defense sans surprising star Patrick Hillis.

But that won't matter much with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal spreading the field and Cutler will depend on the pass to move the chains. After that emotionally charged affair against the Bucs on Monday Night Football, the Panthers are in for a let down and will find the proposition of stopping Cutler a daunting one to say the least.

Over three hundred, at least a pair of touchdowns and a pick for good measure.

Phillips Rivers - Chargers vs. Chiefs - Somewhere along the line the Chargers morphed into a pass first, run second team with Phillip Rivers at the helm. He's delivered fantasy numbers we could never have imagined and will continue to do so this week against the Chiefs 29th ranked pass defense.

Big things ahead for Vincent Jackson and I expect someone will reintroduce Antonio Gates to Rivers and they'll hook up for a score. The Chargers have only the slimmest of chances to reach the playoffs and they'll waste no time keeping the window open for one more week.

Jason Campbell - Redskins vs. Bengals - If there was ever a time Jason Campbell could redeem himself for such an ugly season, Week 15 is it.

The Bengals await Campbell and his underachieving offense, just in time for the Redskins to make a run that's a little too late. But he'll be able to spread the field and get the ball in the hands of fellow fantasy disappointments Chris Cooley and Santana Moss.


Matt Cassel - Patriots vs. Raiders - First and foremost, my condolences to Matt and his family. His father passed away this week and Matt's been excused from the team while he attempts to deal with the unfortunate situation.

This is not meant to pile on in any way. I just can't imagine how anyone could try to play a football game with such drastic playoff implications so soon after losing my father. I'm not sure that I could do it and I'm not sure that he can either.

Avoid the risk involved and seek QB help elsewhere.

Kyle Orton - Bears vs. Saints - Prevailing wisdom is that you can throw on the Saints.

That may be true, but not when you're the Chicago Bears. With an offense void of any imagination, Sean Payton won't have to do much when trying to stop the Bears mediocre passing game. This will be a contest in which the Bears try to control the clock with the run and try to use the cold weather to their advantage.

With the way Drew Brees is playing this season, this one might be over before it begins.

Running Backs

Must starts: Adrian Peterson (Min), Steven Jackson, LaDanian Tomlinson, Michael Turner, Clinton Portis, Brian Westbrook, DeAngelo Williams


Thomas Jones - Jets vs. Bills - Jones has been a machine this season and will be the focal point of the Jets offense this weekend against the Bills. He was the primary reason this offense had looked so good during their five game winning streak, highlighted by his 30-carry effort in their improbable win against the Patriots in Week 11.

The Bills, still stuck in a sickening downward spiral, are running out of reasons to play for and won't be able to stop the elusive bruiser out of Big Stone Gap, VA.

Expect 25 to 27 carries and a pair of scores for TJ.

Sammy Morris - Patriots vs. Raiders - With everything that's going on with Cassel, Morris is going to be counted upon to shoulder the load against the NFL's 30th ranked run defense. Especially if rookie backup Kevin O'Connell is forced to play in Cassel's absence.

Either way, Morris is the starter in New England and will be a great sleeper pick this weekend for those of you who need a miracle.

Maruice Jones-Drew - Jaguars vs. Packers - MJD will be the lone bright spot for the Jaguars this weekend. They've lost nearly every one of their wide receivers and Fragile Freddie Taylor may be out for the remainder of the season with a hand injury.

You'll be getting a heavy dose of this little dynamo against the Packers 27th ranked run defense. He's a great play in Week 15.


All your Steelers and Ravens running backs - This game is pretty much the worst nightmare for fantasy football. The best two defenses in the game standing toe-to-toe in a contest that will help decide who makes the playoffs.

The Steelers have the best run defense in football and the Ravens have only allowed three rushing touchdowns all season. Sit Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore, Willis McGahee, Le'Ron McLain and Ray Rice. Will one of them probably score? Yeah, but I'm not willing to risky my fantasy football season trying to guess who. This could very well end up being a 6-3 game when it's all said and done.

Marshawn Lynch - Bills vs. Jets - This game has disaster written all over it for Lynch.

The Jets desperately need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, while the Bills are just waiting for the season to die and can't wait to start their vacation. Combine that with a defense that needs to come up big after failing miserably in recent weeks and you see nothing but bad things for Marshawn in Week 15.

Larry Johnson - Chiefs vs. Chargers - My intent was to look up how you say bust in languages from around the world, but then I remembered who I'd be writing about and thought better of it.

If he doesn't put in any effort to get better than why should I?

Last week was all I needed to see from LJ to realize he cannot be trusted ever again this season.

Wide Receivers

Must starts: Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, T.O., Greg Jennings, Steve Smith


Marques Colston - Saints vs. Bears - He was here last week too and laid an egg the size of Chicago, so for that I apologize.

But this week against the Bears, things are looking up for this young prospect out of Hofstra. The last time he faced a defense built upon the principles of the Tampa-2, racked up 106 yds on only six catches. Expect more of the same tonight as the Bears defense struggles to stop him over the middle and out routes.

Davone Bess - Dolphins vs. 49ers - He's not a flash in the pan, one week wonder anymore. Bess is producing and this week he'll tally his first touchdown against a 49ers defense that routinely gives up the long ball.

Surprisingly enough, I think the 49ers win this game but not before letting Bess go off for 90 yds and a score.

Antonio Bryant - Bucss vs. Falcons - How many of you missed out on Bryant's ridiculous 200 yd performance against the Panthers on Monday Night?

(I'm raising my hand, just so yo know)

Don't be foolish to think he'll do anything like that again, but the Falcons pass defense can be had and Bryant will be the one to beat them.


Lee Evans - Bills vs. Jetss - You get into a routine and just start guys every week because that's what you're supposed to do. Guys like Evans are your studs, the player you draft so you don't have to worry about whether or not you start him every week.

But snap out of it!

Inconsistent quarterback play and a host of other factors that can be found in this column make Evans a very shaky play this week. I'm not saying this Bills team has given up, but let's just say that pride can only take you so far.

Sit him.

Bernard Berrian - Vikings vs. Cardinals - In theory you'd expect the Vikings would be forced to throw a lot in this game to keep up with the Cardinals. But when you have Frerotte and possibly Tarvaris Jackson doing the throwing, it's best to avoid anyone associated with them, namely Berrian.

The potential is there for Berrian to be a game breaker with defenses being forced to stack the line trying to stop Adrian Peterson. But until there's a reliable QB under center with a strong arm, he's only worthy of a start when the match up is just right.

This isn't one of those times.

Lance Moore - Saints vs. Bears - He's quickly becoming the forgotten man in this Saints offense. Brees now has Colston, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Jeremy Shockey, Moore and Devery Henderson at his disposal. Moore's been amazing this year, especially in the second half of the season. But right now there's not enough of the ball to go around, making Moore the odd man out.

Tight Ends

Must starts: Owen Daniels, Tony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark, Jason Witten


Tony Scheffler - Broncos vs. Panthers - The Broncos will be airing it out on Sunday and Scheffler will get his fair share of looks over the middle. He'll do just fine and finish with a score on the day.


Kevin Boss - Giants vs. Cowboys - He's been ice cold lately and won't heat up until after the Giants play down in 'Big D'.

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Need to start 2 of these 3 at running back. LT, Thomas Jones, or MJD. Was gonna go LT & Jones, but the fact that Fred Taylor went down for the season (plus LT's mediocre-ness) has me thinking I should plug in Jones Drew. Who should I start?

Olsen responds: I'd say go with MJD and Thomas Jones.

L.T. has been way too inconsistent this season and while a lot of the blame may fall on him, some of it needs to be laid upon the offensive line as well. It's been a combination of factors leading up to his 2008 fantasy demise, but it's too late in the game to start thinking things are going to change.

So what do we know?

We know TJ is going to get the ball plenty and so too is MJD against the Packers porous run defense.

It'll be hard to sit LT in what looks like such a cake matchup, but it might be your best shot. I won't blame you for sticking with him, but sometimes you've got to be bold to avoid kicking yourself in the you-know-what when it's all said and done.

Good luck.

who sould i start m. jones drew or steven jackson?

Olsen responds: Give me MJD all day.

Steven Jackson has shown some flashes of life, but just like L.T., it's too little too late.

MJD is going to get all the carries he can handle and will find the end zone at least twice.

Good luck.

"Lance Moore - Saints vs. Bears - He's quickly becoming the forgotten man in this Saints offence....right now there's not enough of the ball to go around, making Moore the odd man out."

Good call! Helped me go with my gut feeling, to let Moore grab some bench...

Now on to my humble semi finale questions :)

RB - need one:
Good ol' C. Portis is health and will, hopefully, run wild.
Flex - need one:
MoJo is my guy again this week. Lets se what he can do as an every down back.
WR - need two:
Got my eyes on W. Welker* and Davone Bess

Clinton Portis
Maurice Jones-Drew
Derrick Ward
LenDale White
Lance Moore
Wes Welker
Kevin Walter
Ted Ginn
Davone Bess

*My only QB is Matt Cassel so there’s a bit of a double risk. Should his production suffer on account of his tragic loss, Welker will suffer too.


Olsen responds: My buddy from Denmark, how ya living Thomas?

Listen buddy, I don't think I'd go against your picks this week. As much as it pains me to say it (facing him in the playoffs), Portis is going to have a huge day against the Bengals. Can't sit him, or Mojo for that matter. Bye bye Fragile Freddie Taylor and Matt 'Nose Candy' Jones spells big things for Mojo this weekend.

And no matter who starts, Welker needs to be in your lineup. He's the best short route runner in football and would be a rookie QB's best friend. Start him.

Good luck.

Who should I start McNabb or Thigpen? Both have great matchups.

Olsen responds: You probably just read that I suggested McNabb the play, but in your situation, I'd go with Thigpen.

They've played the Chargers surprisingly tough and Thigpen matches up well against them, but so too does everyone else against their 30th ranked pass defense.

What used to be a marquee matchup of two elite NFL running backs has morphed into shootout with Thigpen and Rivers providing the fireworks.

Go with Thigpen, but get ready for a bumpy ride.

Good luck.

Yo Mr. Olsen, I am in a quandry for the playoffs, one spot, Portis or Maurice Jones-Drew. Thanks

Olsen responds: Great question although I'm having a difficult time coming up with an answer much as you are.

MJD and Portis both have great matchups that you've been waiting all season for. In the back of my head I'm wondering who your other back is that you're starting ahead of both of these beasts.

Was it Thomas or Forte last night? Brian Westbrook or L.T.?

Either way, I'm leaning towards MJD. Portis is going to have a great day but Mojo is going to kill it this weekend.

That Green Bay defense has been their Achilles heel all season long and things won't change this weekend. They've been giving up big fantasy points lately and MJD is in line to continue the trend.

Week 16: Steve Slaton, 120 yds
Week 15: DeAngelo Williams, 72 yds, 4 TD
Week 13: Adrian Peterson, 192 yds, TD
Week 12: Chris Johnson, 89 yds TD - LenDale White, 77 yds

Roll with the little guy, he won't do you wrong.

I have a tough decision to make:

Brian Westbrook, Chris Johnson, MJD, and Sammy Morris. My instinct tells me to start Westbrook and Chris Johnson, but MJD may have a killer game.

Olsen responds: Tough decision here, but I think you'd be best served going with Westbrook and MJD.

Westbrook is an obvious lock now that the Eagles realized they need to give him the ball 30 times if they want to win.

Chris Johnson is a great play, but there's always LenDale White in the background ready to vulture those oh-so-important touchdowns in the playoffs.

Nobody is challenging MJD and he'll be the featured back, the only back for the Jaguars this weekend.

Good luck.

Can we bes ure that there are no concerns with T.O. this week? It's playoff time and I don't want to get burned. Already feeling a little rough sitting Pierre Thomas last night (in favour of MJD and Steven Jackson).

Maybe Romo makes an extra effort to get T.O the ball this week?

Maybe the G-Men will be onto that and put extra bodies on T.O.'s side of the field?

Comes down to value over replacement, right?

T.O or Santana Holmes?

Ricky responds: I think this is a prime game for TO to put up huge numbers. Go with him.

I started Lance Moore and sat Pierre Thomas for Thursday's game and kicked myself for it.
So I need to make up for it with my remaining 2 WR spots: Davone Bess, Kevin Walter, Amani Toomer, Jerricho Cotchery, and Steve Breaston.
I was thinking Bess and Breaston (if he's good to go on Sunday). I also considered starting Toomer if Domenik Hixon can't go.

Olsen responds: I like where your head's at Shirley. Starting Toomer wouldn't be a bad play if Hixon can't go because Manning won't have anyone else on the field he can trust. Their running attack will suffer marginally now that Jacobs has been ruled out and Manning will have to throw a moderate amount if they want to walk away with a W.

Breaston or Bess make good plays this weekend. The Vikings are beasts when it comes to stopping the run, but extremely vulnerable to the pass. With both cornerbacks doing their best to try and slow down Boldin and Fitzgerald, Breaston may benefit greatly.

I'd go with Toomer and either Bess or Breaston. Probably Breaston.

Good luck.

I need to get some outside perspective on this and you guys always have sumptin strong to say.

I have to choose between playing Donald Driver and Marvin Harrison. I'm going in circles with this. I like that Indy has something to play for and they're playing Detroit but Indy's one of those teams that frequently plays to their competition. Meanwhile Driver has to go against a Jacksonville D that is lousy against the pass but what's Green Bay have to play for... Any thoughts? Thanks.

Olsen responds: :Marvin Harrison hasn't scored a touchdown in consecutive weeks this season.

In between those games, his yardage totals dry up and makes an absolutely terrible play. That holds true even more so this weekend, even if it is against the winless Lions.

Go with Driver. He's more consistent in terms of fantasy production and has a great matchup against the Jaguars.

Good luck.

How am I living? Small appartment in Copenhagen?!? You?

"As much as it pains me to say it (facing him in the playoffs), Portis is going to have a huge day against the Bengals" - Gehehe, gues we're both left wondering what happened. You have to have been pleased facing him and all. How'd you fare? Portis' less than killer day didnt matter to me though, MJD, Cassel and Welker secured a 67-77 W for me. Bowlgame, my first, woohoo :).

Olsen responds: Yeah, I was waiting for someone to throw the Portis game in my face. I deserve it, he was a complete bust.

Glad to hear you won Thomas, I'll be looking forward to see how you did in the Super Bowl.

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Matt Wood is a web editor for and editor of He is also a contributor for satirical sports publication The Heckler. Have a fantasy question? E-mail him.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Olsen published on December 11, 2008 9:29 AM.

Waiver Wire Pickups & Playoff Advice was the previous entry in this blog.

Injuries to monitor through the weekend is the next entry in this blog.

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